Lorraine Olivia is a documentary photographer based in Portland, OR, USA. She emphasizes storytelling and documentation as tools for power, recognition and problem solving. She captures social situations and landscapes as a way to discover and be informed about the world around me.
For the past couple of years, I've been going on intermittent trips through my home state of Oregon to explore some of the many desolate places within. Oregon holds the record for the highest number of "ghost towns" in the United States.
These abandoned places hold a piece of the history of Western migration in the U.S. As pioneer settlers moved West in the 1800s, they sprinkled themselves throughout Oregon, making territories. When production of the first transcontinental railroad surged throughout Oregon, any towns that were not accessible via train were left in the dust. What we are left with is over 200 ghostly towns. But it's not only the ghosts of the past that remain in these places; there are still few people who choose to live in some of the towns. These small populations feel eerie and private, as if to say "We live in the middle of nowhere for a reason, so stay out."
Oregon also has a hidden history of keeping out people of colour. During slavery, there were laws in place forbidding Black people to enter the state. No slaves, no Black people period. Believe it or not, there were laws prohibiting people of colour from buying property in certain areas up until the 1990s.
Being a city dweller, these histories make me contemplate the majority of my state in a new light--the legacy Oregon has created. Has Oregon created an atmosphere that says "Stay Out"?